Whilst I like camping, I do not like sleeping on a foam mat because my hip digs into the ground which is pretty uncomfortable. Are the self inflating Thermarest mats much of an improvement?
The vast majority of people on this forum seem to use self-inflating mats and they are apparently a huge improvement on the foam mat. The downsides are that they are a bit heavier, are more expensive and aren't as durable.* There is a large range of mats made by companies including Alpkit, Thermarest, Multimat and Exped. If you're a regular backpacker, I'd definitely recommend one.
*However, with a decent mat, punctures are rare, as the mats are quite tough.
Wild_man wrote (see)
Cool, thanks. Any experience with either of these?
Been using Exped Downmats for a few years now. No problems, other than a bit of familiarity needed to get the best way of inflating them. Well worth the effort and transformed my experience of wildcamping.
I tried a Pacific Ether mummy-shaped inflatable but missed the extra space. I never tried it out in the wild. Sold it on.
Had a Neo-air for a bit. Very light and compact but the horizontal baffles made the mat feel a bit unstable and I tended to fall off it in the night. Sold it on.
So Exped has been the manufacturer of choice. My wife used to really struggle to get a night's sleep car-camping (she doesn't backpack) until she tried an Exped Downmat. Of all the bits of kit I've tried over the years, the Downmat is the one that has made the biggest improvement to comfort. They're not the lightest or cheapest mats out there and of course they're more easily punctured than a closed cell foam mat so you do need to be a bit careful where you pitch but with lightweight tents you have to be careful anyway.
Weight is much less of an issue than it used to be - a full length Exped UL Downmat is down to 565g now and you can take a lighter sleeping bag as most heat is lost through the ground.
I now use a Pacific Outdoors Elite (full length). It is not a self-inflating mat, you have to blow it up. It weighs less than 400 grams but is is vey thick and comfortable. I also have the Torso-lite pad (same company). Again it is not self inflating, it is for your shoulders and buttocks. It Weighs about 280 grams. I use this when I camp with my lad (he uses the Elite). I used to use a Thermarest trail-lite. A good full lenght mat whci does self-inflate most of the way, but it weighs just short of a kilo.
For the cost and weight I'd recommend the Elite, however, big blokes tend to burst them ( I am a slight 13.5 stone).
I think if you`re a regular side sleeper, an air mat is the way forward!
I used a Neoair for a while and found it extremely comfy no matter which position I was sleeping in, very light and packs down small.
I only sold it because I wanted a mat that I can use right through winter too. I`m now using a downmat 7 UL which I`ve only used once so far, that too is a very thick and comfy mat.
I too use the Exped range.
Syn 7 UL, most of the time.
Syn 7 or Down 7, for really cold winter camping.
Down 9, for extreme cold camping, below - 20c.
I've used most types of mat over the years, Exped's are the best I've slept on.
Depends on the mat, some have an internal pump, you pump up on side of mat.
Others need an externel pump, you have a few choose from, a simple 'bag' one, one I don't recall name of and my fav. the pillow pump, pumps up the mat and close valves, add some air, is a commfy pillow.
BTW. The ones with external valves can be blown up by breath. Though is not recommended as water exhaled from your breath can degrade filling, Down especially.
After careful consideration, I'm leaning towards the Exped. Their website doesn't seem to be the best - I assume 'ul' refers to ultralite?
Are there any recommendations where to purchase it? The usual places - Blacks, Cotswolds, don't seem to stock them.
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